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Written by Marijn Overvest | Reviewed by Sjoerd Goedhart | Fact Checked by Ruud Emonds | Our editorial policy

Sole Sourcing – Everything a Procurement Professional Should Know

Key take-aways

  • Sole Sourcing: Buying all materials from one supplier for simplicity.

  • Benefits: Strengthened supplier relations, better accountability, and potential discounts.

  • Post-Pandemic Optimization: Transparent cost analysis, explore new suppliers for efficiency.

Sole sourcing is a term that is almost always heard between procurement managers and procurement analysts. As one of the important schools of thought in the procurement world, every procurement manager should already know and learn how to recognize and take advantage of it.

For this article, we are going to learn more about sole sourcing. We will discuss its definition and take notes on using sole sourcing to your advantage. 

After reading this article, you should know when and how to use sole sourcing to improve your procurement processes.

Sole Sourcing: What is It?

Sole Sourcing – or single sourcing – is the old concept of buying all supplies and materials from a single supplier. Simply put, you or your company won’t take any other supplies apart from one supplier. 

Contrary to what most experts believe, sole sourcing is pretty much the same as single sourcing. It really doesn’t take rocket science to know that particular information, right?

Its counterpart is multi-sourcing, the process of sourcing materials from other sources in the world or area. With seemingly infinite production options for most industries, multi-sourcing is a strategy that currently needs a huge pool of suppliers to satisfy business needs.

Simply put, single-sourcing or sole-sourcing is the best choice for starting companies. Whether you want to get your supplies from one local store only or you want to direct your budget into the procurement of goods from only one supplier abroad, it is far easier to record and maintain good relations with a supplier if your company is only getting its supplies from one source only.

Examples of Sole Sourcing

Because the concept is already understandable, putting examples in this article should give you a much clearer picture of how sole sourcing works. 

In short, it’s all about buying one particular brand or buying from one store or company only for your procurement supplies:

  • If your company needs to buy good laptops and you have all decided to purchase Sony laptops, then obviously Sony is your single-sourcing.
  • Toshiba is one of the most popular brands in the world. Toshiba Electronics has decided to go with Asyst Technologies Inc as its single product sourcing for fab production in 300mm fab.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Sole Sourcing

Like almost all basics and terms in procurement, sole sourcing also has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s first start with the advantages.

One of the best things about sole sourcing is that because you only get from one supplier or source, there is a bigger chance of improving supplier relations between your company and the suppliers. Getting more and more supplies meant more business for your supplier and also, bigger discounts as long as you keep buying supplies from that one source.

Another advantage is that you can personally check each supply and ensure that each supply is often accounted for. In case of issues, you can immediately contact the supplier and have them fix them.

Now we come to the disadvantages. First off, a lot of suppliers right now have closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some manufacturers are simply having a hard time answering all demands because basically, the companies that supply materials have closed down due to the pandemic. While 2022 remains a hopeful year for procurement managers, the problem with dwindling supplies and sources is a disadvantage that procurement managers might want to take notice of.

How to Do Sole Sourcing for 2023

Sole sourcing may not be the hottest trend right now when it comes to procurement, but nevertheless, it remains the first option for small business managers who want to grow their company.

As we think about the global supply chain from a 30,000ft view, pre and post-pandemic, businesses get superior pricing by routing higher volume orders to a single vendor. The concept of economies of scale has not and will not change. For this reason, timing your buys and meticulously planning quantities will always be an effective strategy to drive margins. That said, when building longstanding partnerships with suppliers, how can you be sure that the grass isn’t greener elsewhere? According to Forbes, only 31% of companies have developed alternate supply sources for 70% or more of their Tier 1 suppliers.

You may be satisfied with your current margins and suppliers who drop the unit price by 1-2% each year. However, as our global economy continues to face disruptions, new suppliers are popping up to take innovative approaches to produce the products you sell. If you stick with the same suppliers for decades, how do you know there aren’t alternative suppliers making the same quality product faster and at lower costs? 

Transparent annual cost/benefit analysis is the best way to optimize single-sourcing post-pandemic. Whether your business has been purchasing from the same vendor for one year or 100 years, at the end of each buying season, it is critical to conduct two types of evaluations:

  • Ways to drive superior margins/product quality with existing suppliers
  • Ways to drive superior margins/product quality with new suppliers around the globe

When conducting these evaluations, it is essential to share your ACTUAL target prices with new suppliers, and approximate current margins, costs, and weaknesses with your existing supply chain partnership. While doing this, simultaneously request that your active vendors evaluate their processes and pricing to determine if their offering can be more competitive. If you are displeased with the pricing, turnaround times, and capacity your current vendors offer, be forthcoming. 

Good vendor relationships thrive from honesty, and if you find better pricing from other partners, share this with your existing suppliers. Transparency and being proactive about seeking annual improved efficiency even when sticking with your current vendor will enable you to optimize your single-sourcing strategy.

Conclusion

Sole sourcing, or single-sourcing, is a fundamental concept in procurement that involves obtaining all supplies and materials from a single supplier.

The advantages include strengthened supplier relations and better control over supplies, while the disadvantages include potential risks due to supplier closures, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking ahead to 2023, the article emphasizes that sole sourcing remains a viable option, especially for small businesses aiming for growth. It discusses the importance of transparent cost/benefit analysis for optimizing single-sourcing post-pandemic and encourages businesses to evaluate both existing and potential suppliers regularly for superior margins and product quality.

Frequentlyasked questions

What is sole sourcing?

Sole sourcing is the process of buying supplies or products from one store or brand only.

Is sole sourcing effective?

Sole sourcing is effective for companies that are trying to grow and expand by concentrating their resources on getting from one source only.

Who is in charge of sole sourcing?

It is often the sourcing manager who takes care of all sole sourcing tasks.

About the author

My name is Marijn Overvest, I’m the founder of Procurement Tactics. I have a deep passion for procurement, and I’ve upskilled over 200 procurement teams from all over the world. When I’m not working, I love running and cycling.

Marijn Overvest Procurement Tactics